Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Immigration and Democracy Podcast: The Immigrant Vote: What, How Many, and Why it Matters


Here is the latest Immigration and Democracy from the Immigration Initiative at Harvard podcast -- and its timing is perfect!  The description is as follows:

Not only is immigration a main stake in the forthcoming U.S. election, it is predicted that this year will see unprecedented numbers of immigrant voters. So, what does that look like? We wrap up this season of Immigration & Democracy with perhaps the killer question: what is the importance of the immigrant vote in U.S. politics – how has it shaped trends historically, and what will it mean for this year on November 3rd? We are joined by Matt A. Barreto, Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA and the co-founder of the research and polling firm Latino Decisions, and Janelle Wong, Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland and Co-Principal Investigator on the 2016 National Asian American Survey. Together they work on the Collaborative Multi-racial Post-Election Survey.



August 26, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

CBP Creates Southern California Traffic Jam

Southern California is famous for its traffic jams.  One now-recurring jam is a direct result of U.S. government measures attributed to halting the spread of the coronavirus.  The Los Angeles Times reports that the latest move by Customs and Border Protection to slow traffic from Mexico into the U.S. has caused border traffic jams stretching for miles and waits exceeding 10 hours for those crossing at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Border officials say the action is designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and make people “think twice” about crossing the border.

August 26, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

AOC body slams Kimberly Guilfoyle over family "immigrant story"


Watching the Republican National Convention?  It has been a very interesting week even if one is not a Trump supporter.

Ex-wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom and now ardent Trump supporter and fund-raiser, Kimberly Guilfoyle spoke at the Republican National Convention on opening night.  She endorsed Donald Trump and attacked Joe Biden.  Although that is not surprising, Guilfoyle's explanation of her "immigrant roots" was.

Guilfoyle implied that her Puerto Rican mother was an immigrant and that she was the daughter of immigrants. She called herself a first-generation American, referencing her parents' places of origin:  "My mother Mercedes was a special education teacher from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. My father, also an immigrant, came to this nation in pursuit of the American dream."

The same night, Cuban immigrant Maximo Alvarez railed against the Fidel Castro-like Biden/Harris Democratic ticket.  Allowing Guilfoyle and Alvarez to speak at the convention clearly were attempts to send a more positive message about President Trump and immigration than that found in his policies, such as family separation, the new public charge rule, asylum restrictions, DACA rescission, etc. 

The Hill reports that Rep resentative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) panned Guilfoyle's immigration story.  "The woman the GOP picked as their 'proud' Latina to tout 'immigrant experience' didn’t seem to know that Puerto Rico is already part of the United States," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.


Guilfoyle's comments about her immigrant family were poorly received among some Puerto Ricans, as the territory's inhabitants are U.S. citizens.  The title of this commentary reveals the sensitivities: "If you don’t know by now that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, you’re not ignorant. You’re racist" by Helen Ubiñas.

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory after the 1898 Spanish-American War; its residents have been U.S. citizens since 1917. offers a short explanation of how that came to be.


August 26, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Trump Nominates Chad Wolf To Be Homeland Security Chief


Late yesterday, news reports on what would have been big news just a few years ago -- the President announced a cabinet appointment by Tweet! 

President Trump, in a tweet yesterday, said he will nominate Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to be DHS secretary.  The nomination comes less than two weeks after the Government Accountability Office concluded (and here) that Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, the senior official performing the duties of DHS deputy secretary, were not appointed through a valid process. They have been serving in their roles since November without Senate confirmation.

Under Wolf's leadership as acting secretary, DHS deployed federal agents to protests in Portland, as well as imposed new restrictions on asylum-seekers and has brashly responded to the Supreme Court's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals decision. Lawsuits have been filed seeking to invalidate DHS actions because of Wolf's invalid appointment.

It is unclear if the Senate will vote to confirm Wolf.


August 26, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigration Article of the Day: Immigration Law's Adverse Impact on COVID-19 by Wendy E. Parmet


Immigration Law's Adverse Impact on COVID-19 by Wendy E. Parmet, Burris, S., de Guia, S., Gable, L., Levin, D.E., Parmet, W.E., Terry, N.P. (Eds.) (2020). Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19. Boston: Public Health Law Watch


Immigration law has played a large and deleterious role during the pandemic. In early 2020, the Trump administration relied on the Immigration and Naturalization Act to bar entry of non-nationals from affected areas. Once the pandemic spread widely in the United States, the administration imposed broad restrictions on immigration, including blocking entry at land borders, effectively overriding asylum laws. While furthering the administration’s pre-pandemic, anti-immigration agenda, these measures did little to keep the virus out of the country, or reduce its impact. Immigrants have also suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 due to numerous factors, including high rates of employment as essential workers, substandard housing, and immigration-based restrictions on non-citizens’ access to public benefits, including Medicaid. The recently promulgated public charge rule, plus ongoing immigration enforcement activities and anti-immigrant rhetoric, have compounded these vulnerabilities, leaving many immigrants afraid to access health care or interact with public health workers. SARS-COV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19) has also spread widely in immigration facilities, where detainees are unable to practice social distancing and lack access to adequate hygiene and health care.

This paper was prepared as part of Assessing Legal Responses to COVID-19, a comprehensive report published by Public Health Law Watch in partnership with the de Beaumont Foundation and the American Public Health Association.


August 26, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

USCIS averts furloughs... for now

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it will change its plan of furloughing more than 13,000 employees next week, temporarily averting a scenario that would have crippled the processing of applications for green cards, work permits, U.S. citizenship and other immigration benefits.

CBS News reviewed a message in which Deputy USCIS Director for Policy Joseph Edlow said the agency could avoid furloughs because its financial situation "improved somewhat" since the spring, when COVID-19 closures resulted in a drop in applications. However, though applications have increased since then, Edlow said the agency is still projecting a budget shortfall and will continue to require financial assistance from Congress. According to a bipartisan letter from the Congressional committee with oversight of the USCIS, the agency made over $800 million more in revenue than originally anticipated. 

The initial request for additional funding led to a standoff  in Congress between those wanting to see the USCIS fully funded and those wanting to restrict usage of money so that the agency could not engage in activities deemed outside the scope of its mission to provide services, such as intensive vetting, investigation of fraud, and denial of immigration benefits.


August 25, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Problems with Covid Contract Tracing in Immigraton Communities

Screen Shot 2020-08-25 at 6.24.14 PM

As you might imagine, significant hurdles exist for Covid contact tracing in immigrant communities. As AP News has reported, "Only a handful of contact tracers working to slow COVID-19 in 125 communities near Chicago speak Spanish, despite significant Hispanic populations." This is not a Chicago-specific problem. As AP News notes: "In the ZIP code with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland, 56% of adults speak Spanish. But only 60 of Maryland’s 1,350 contact tracers speak Spanish." That seems problematic.

Beyond issues of language, contact tracing in immigrant communities is also hindered by "confusion and fear of the government." AP News reports that "in an era of hardline immigration enforcement" many worry about about giving a full account of their comings and goings (and friends) to the government. Fair.

Interestingly, we noted back in May that Ed Kissam and JoAnn Intili of the WKF Giving Fund made a compelling case for "Why Community-Based Case Investigation and Contact Tracing is Crucial." Too bad the government wasn't listening.


P.S. My husband (an IP nerd and graphic art fan) thinks I should add that I made the attached graphic using public domain clip art and a copyright-free image from the CDC and I should "own it as having totally rocked it."

August 25, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trump administration argues tribe cannot block construction of the wall

Law360 (August 24, 2020, 10:13 PM EDT) -- The federal government has urged a California federal court to reject a bid by the La Posta Band of Diegueno Mission Indians to halt construction of President Donald Trump's border wall, saying the tribe's concerns that the project threatens its ancestral burial grounds don't carry any more weight than environmental groups' objections.

The federally recognized tribe asked the court Aug. 14 for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on construction of 21 miles of wall along the U.S-Mexico border in Southern California, arguing that the project is being funded without the authorization of Congress and violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, by desecrating ancestral burial grounds and sacred sites. 

In an opposition filed Friday, the Trump administration said the U.S. Supreme Court last year rejected similar arguments to the tribe's when it stayed a California federal judge's injunction on using $2.5 billion in defense funds to construct a wall on the southern border that had been granted to the Sierra Club and other environmental groups.

The case is La Posta Band of Diegueno Mission Indians of the La Posta Reservation et al. v. Donald J. Trump et al., case number 3:20-cv-01552, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

August 25, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Cuban Immigrant Praised for Speech About Fleeing Communism at Republican National Convention


Brendan Cole for Newsweek reports that a "Cuban immigrant businessman whose family fled Fidel Castro's regime has been widely praised for a speech in which he told the Republican party faithful how his family's story was an example of the American dream which can only be protected by the GOP."

Maximo Alvarez, the founder of Sunshine Gasoline, spoke at the Republican National Convention (RNC) about how his father had fled totalitarianism from Spain and later Cuba, before making a life for his family in the United States.

I don't buy the idea that a vote for the Biden/Harris ticket is a vote for communism in disguise (a la Fidel Castro) or that President Trump offers the choice of "freedom" over "oppression."  Still, Alvarez offered a heart-felt speech that some observers viewed as one of the better ones of the convention's first day.


August 25, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

House Passes USCIS Bailout. Will the Senate?


The drama continues.  Will there be furloughs on August 30 at U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, halting the processing of legal immigration?  The possibility has been discussed for monthsNicole Narea for Vox reports that the U.S. House of Representatives  passed a bill over the weekend that would avoid furloughs at USCIS.  According to the story:

"The agency plans to furlough about two-thirds of its staff on August 30. The furloughs would hamstring the agency’s ability to process immigration applications in a timely manner, potentially preventing more than 100,000 citizenship applicants from voting in November due to the processing delays.

The bill, which passed unanimously, would allow USCIS to raise certain fees associated with fast-tracked immigration applications and prevent the furloughs.

Unlike other federal agencies, USCIS receives almost no taxpayer dollars and is dependent on fees associated with filing applications for green cards, visas, work permits, US citizenship, and humanitarian benefits such as asylum. It’s not clear whether the bill will pass in the Senate, which is on recess until September. But a senator could seek unanimous consent to pass the bill at any time." (bold added).

UPDATE (Aug. 25, 11:15 PST): "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that the agency will avert an administrative furlough of more than 13,000 employees, scheduled to begin Aug. 30 as a result of unprecedented spending cuts and a steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts."



August 25, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Undocumented but unafraid: How my immigrant story led to DACA protections for young people


Read the Women of the Century interview with USA TODAY:  Cristina Jiménez Moreta helped get DACA, now she helps young immigrants find their voice.  Read her commentary here.  Jimenez co-founded United We Dream.



August 25, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigration Article of the Day: A Doctrine Without Exception: Critiquing an Immigration Exception to the Anticommandeering Rule by Mary Ann F. McNulty


A Doctrine Without Exception: Critiquing an Immigration Exception to the Anticommandeering Rule by Mary Ann F. McNulty, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Forthcoming


In early 2020, a new circuit split over sanctuary cities emerged. The Second Circuit split from every other circuit when it upheld the federal government’s withholding of federal funds from cities or states that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts. This Comment will examine one particular facet of the Second Circuit’s decision — its preservation of the federal statute 8 U.S.C. § 1373 — and argue that this decision has profound consequences for our system of federalism. § 1373 prohibits state and local legislatures from limiting information sharing between state and local officials and federal immigration agents. This Comment will explain how this statute violates a rule known as the anti-commandeering rule, which stands for the constitutional principle that the federal government cannot force state governments to administer or enact federal regulatory schemes. By upholding a federal statute that allows the federal government to control state and local legislatures when deciding immigration issues, the Second Circuit carved out an exception to the anti-commandeering rule based on a federally enumerated right — a position that has never been supported since the Supreme Court first articulated the anti-commandeering rule in New York v. United States. The Second Circuit’s recent decision has profound implications. Not only would it be the first time the anti-commandeering has been given an exception based on a federally enumerated right, but this precedent would allow the federal government free reign over state and local resources, facilities, and even legislatures to further any federal immigration agenda.


August 25, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 24, 2020

USCIS Implementing Guidance on DHS Secretary Wolfe's DACA Memo

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today provided guidance on how it will implement Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf’s July 28 memorandum regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

In a message to stakeholders, the USCIS says:

"Under USCIS’ implementing guidance, we will reject all initial DACA requests from aliens who have never previously received DACA and return all fees. The rejections will be without prejudice, meaning aliens will be able to reapply should USCIS begin accepting new requests in the future from aliens who never before received DACA. USCIS will continue to accept requests from aliens who had been granted DACA at any time in the past and will also accept requests for advance parole that are properly submitted to the address specified on the Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-131 webpage.

For approvable DACA renewal requests, USCIS will limit grants of deferred action and employment authorization under DACA to no more than one year, but will not rescind any currently valid two-year grants of DACA or associated employment authorization documents (EADs), unless USCIS terminates an alien’s DACA for failure to continue to meet the DACA criteria (see 2012 Memorandum), including failure to warrant a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion. USCIS will replace two-year EADs that are lost, stolen or damaged with the same facial two-year validity period assuming the EAD replacement application is otherwise approvable.

USCIS will generally reject requests received more than 150 days before the current grant of DACA expires. DACA recipients should file their renewal request between 150 and 120 days before their current grant of DACA expires.

USCIS will only grant advance parole for travel outside the United States to DACA recipients pursuant to the new guidance, which provides for a determination that parole of the alien is for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit in keeping with the governing statute. The agency will not rescind any previously granted advance parole documents unless there is another legal reason to do so. However, as has always been the case, parole into the United States is not guaranteed. In all cases, aliens are still subject to immigration inspection at a port-of-entry to determine whether they are eligible to come into the United States."

Earlier this month, California's Attorney General sent a letter urging a federal judge to address the future of DACA. The letter questions the legality of the DHS memorandum in light of the Supreme Court ruling that the administration's rescission of DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act. Experts, as well as the California AG, argue the Supreme Court decision "had the effect of reinstating DACA, on its original terms, on a nationwide basis" which includes processing initial DACA applications.


August 24, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Border Patrol Considered Accepting a Donation From We Build the Wall: Leaked documents undermine the Trump administration’s attempts to distance itself following the arrest of Steve Bannon.

It has been a rough week for Trump Associates, with Steve Bannon charged with fraud in raising funds for a private U.S./Mexico border wall.  President Trump (see the video above) distanced himself from his former advisor and confidant.  Ken Klippenstein for The Nation suggests that the story is a bit more complex: 

"Customs and Border Protection (CBP) leadership met with representatives of We Build the Wall to consider their offer of donating the privately constructed wall to the US government. CBP described it as `an overall positive meet and greet' and even provided the group with guidance on how to gift their wall to CBP, according to an internal CBP memo obtained exclusively by The Nation.

On November 26—five days after the date on the document—We Build the Wall issued a press release announcing that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Chad Wolf had endorsed the project, purportedly calling it a `game-changer.' After the indictments, however, Wolf told CNN that he never endorsed the effort." (bold added).

One can only wonder how much more we will learn later about the Trump administration's dealings.

Click the link above for more details.

The We Build the Wall website still appears to be up. This post is on the home page:

Brian Kolfage
on Friday

The witch hunt is on! I'm not going to be bullied into being a political prisoner for my beliefs. I have fought hard for these freedoms and the SDNY is on a all out assault to take down every Trump insider from the 2016 election, that means Bannon. They will ruin innocent peoples lives in order to have a war trophy pinned to the wall just before elections.


August 24, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Joe Biden's Emerging - and Evolving - Immigration Policies

As the presidential campaigns continue, voters are learning more about Biden-Harris' stances on immigration. Supplementing ImmigrationProf's analysis of the DNC Convention, Roll Call summarizes the plans as reversing Trump's policies (platform says, "We will start by righting the wrongs of the Trump Administration") and pursuing comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.

Some of the key proposals for the first 100 days in Biden's platform and media interviews:

  • Ending construction of a border wall. “There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration... I’m going to make sure that we have border protection, but it’s going to be based on making sure that we use high-tech capacity to deal with it. And at the ports of entry — that’s where all the bad stuff is happening,” he said.
  • Reversing Trump executive orders by rescinding various travel and asylum bans, ending the “Remain in Mexico” and “metering” border policies that prevent migrants seeking asylum from entering the United States
  • Ending family separation and the use of for-profit detention centers.
  • Reversing the public charge rule that functions as a wealth test for immigrants seeking a green card
  • Reinstating and extending protections for undocumented immigrants been protected by the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program. Granting these so-called “Dreamers” access to federal student loans. (VP Candidate Kamala Harris sought to use executive action for this purpose when she was running for President.)
  • Raising the current refugee ceiling from 18,000, a historic low, to 125,000
  • Over the course of his first year, Biden has vowed to “commit significant political capital to deliver legislative immigration reform.” Proposals would include allowing more people into the legal immigration system (including high skilled and agricultural workers), providing a roadmap for citizenship for 11 million undocumented people now in the country, limiting executive power to enact discrimintary travel bans. 
  • Over the course of his presidency, Biden says he will expand efforts to address the root causes of unauthorized migration in Central America (a focus of his during the Obama administration).

Biden's views are more fleshed out than they were previously and indicate evolution from Obama positions on family detention at the border and fast-tracked immigration hearings, yet they remain  moderate compared to progressive Democrats and advocates. For example, instead of calling to abolish ICE or enforce a 100-day moratorium on deporations, the Biden platform seeks to “increase resources for training and demand transparency in, and independent oversight” over ICE and returns to a system of prioritized enforcement used under the Obama administration.


August 24, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

John Oliver: The Wall, Part 2

Last night, John Oliver took a hard look at "The Wall," a topic he had already examined back in 2016.


August 24, 2020 in Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Where immigrants will have the most voting power in 2020


Foreign-born voters make up nearly 10% of the electorate — a record percentage — and could prove to be a key constituency this November, reports Stef W. Kight for Axios. According to analysis of Census data from New American Economy (NAE), battleground states like Texas and Florida may see sizable swings, even beyond metro areas. “Immigrants also are moving to less-expected places such as Twin Falls, Idaho (8.5%) and Cass County, North Dakota (6.8%).” Said NAE Director of Quantitative Research Andrew Lim: “I think for many years past it was just regarded as a big city issue … That is clearly no longer the case.”

Texas, Georgia and Virginia as well as Florida could see swings with statewide or national implications. Congressional races to watch include Texas' 22nd district, Georgia's 7th and California's 39th, 45th, and 48th — reaching into counties where immigrants comprise around one in five eligible voters, according to the analysis by New American Economy (NAE).


August 24, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Who Gets Asylum? New Analysis of EOIR Data from Kate Morrissey and Lauryn Schroeder of the San Diego Union-Tribune

A new analysis of U.S. immigration court data by Kate Morrissey and Lauryn Schroeder of the San Diego Union-Tribune focuses on asylum decisions in immigration court and is worth a close read. According to the authors, "[a]n asylum seeker's chances at protection hinge on numerous factors that often seem arbitrary — from location to nationality to individual judge assigned."

Reviewing a decade of EOIR decisions in asylum cases, the authors found that immigration judges granted asylum about 19 percent of the time. Those who remained detained during the adjudication of their asylum claim were most likely to be ordered deported (74 percent of cases).

The article also discusses possible systemic bias against asylum seekers based on race and country of origin. They quote asylum expert Professor Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at UC Hastings College of the Law, explaining: "[E]ven though the refugee definition is supposed to be applied in a neutral way, the same way to all nationalities, that has never been the case in the U.S."

Immigration Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, contributed to the report, acknowledging that immigration judges may come out differently even when deciding cases that have the same set of facts: "It's not unusual for people looking at the same set of facts and same set of rules to have differing opinions about how much weight to give evidence and what the conclusion should be."

Finally, the authors also discuss the importance of appeal in light of high denial rates in asylum cases. Attorneys interviewed explained that they "worry that more and more asylum seekers will have to go to the circuit courts to be granted relief."


August 24, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trump Administration Proposed Rule Aims To Speed Up Immigration Appeals

"The Department of Justice (`Department') proposes to amend the regulations of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (`EOIR') regarding the handling of appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals (`BIA' or `Board'). The Department proposes multiple changes to the processing of appeals to ensure the consistency, efficiency, and quality of its adjudications. The Department also proposes to amend the regulations to make clear that there is no freestanding authority of line immigration judges or BIA members to administratively close cases. Finally, the Department proposes to remove inapplicable or unnecessary provisions regarding the forwarding of the record of proceedings on appeal."


August 24, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Terminating Asylum Status in Deciding Applications for Adjustment of Status


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy
Manual to update and clarify the procedures USCIS officers follow when termination of asylum
status is considered in relation to adjudicating an asylum-based adjustment of status application.

One might worry that the issuance of the guidance will chill asylees from seeking adjustment of status.



August 24, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)